WMATA Begins a New Capital Needs Inventory
Restoring Metro’s reliability and quality requires a comprehensive approach to asset management and reinvestment.
In April, Metro staff commenced the important work of updating its Capital Needs Inventory (CNI), a financially unconstrained prioritized plan of capital needs that documents Metro’s infrastructure, vehicle, facility, technology, and system capacity investment needs over an immediate to 10-year horizon, and provides input to the development of the six-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). This document, which itemizes and prioritizes the capital investment needs of the entire Authority over a ten-year period, not only informs our jurisdictional partners about funding needs, but is now also a component of the federally required Transit Asset Management Plans outlined in MAP-21. Importantly, Metro’s CNI effort is occurring at a critical time both for the Authority and within the transit industry. Concurrent with recent asset-related failures on Metro’s rail system, international standards for asset management (ISO 55000) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) proposed rules have recently been published that can help guide the methodology and tools used to develop a best-in-class CNI.
Have we done this before?
Awareness of the need to focus on the maintenance and renewal of Metro’s capital assets has existed since the system opened, but a comprehensive approach to long-term planning for the funding and management of capital assets has been lacking for much of Metro’s history. In the early years of Metrorail operations, the focus of funding campaigns was on construction of the full system. Toward the late 1990s, as the 103-mile rail system neared completion, efforts began to quantify capital improvement needs and to increase the size of the capital improvement program budget. Some key milestones during that period included:
- 20-Year Capital Improvement Program (1998 R. Harris Study) – This program developed the first significant capital asset database and identified infrastructure renewal requirements based on asset age and condition.
- 2001 GAO Report, Many Management Successes at WMATA, but Capital Planning Could Be Enhanced – The Government Accounting Office (GAO) called for a long-term strategic plan and capital plan, and an improved capital improvement decision-making In response, Metro completed the following plans:
- October 2002 – Routes to the Future, A Strategic Plan
Metro last completed a CNI in 2009 (PDF) and used it to help guide the MetroMatters and PRIIA funding discussions in 2010. However, since the completion of the last CNI and the execution of the six-year Capital Funding Agreement (CFA) in 2010, progress has been made on several aspects of asset management, capital planning and decision-making. This puts Metro in a position to create a much more rigorous, analytically based, and transparent CNI that can be used over time to better guide and inform funding and capital investment decisions at the Authority.
Among the improvements we seek to impart to this CNI are commitments to:
- Align decision-making with the objectives of the agency;
- Utilize asset inventory and condition data in making investment decisions;
- Determine the value and/or risk of assets to service delivery and safety; and
- Prioritize investments in a transparent, informed process.
What’s going on now?
The first step in this process is to understand exactly what assets we have, what condition they are in, and analyze them for reinvestment/rehabilitation/replacement needs. Metro’s Office of Quality and Internal Compliance Operations Office (QICO) is currently evaluating almost 100,000 assets through a Transit Asset Inventory and Conditions Assessment (TAICA) to produce an underlying data set for analysis of future State of Good Repair (SGR) needs in the CNI. The TAICA effort will include the construction of a comprehensive database of existing assets as well as condition assessment of the assets such that they can be consistently rated on a condition scale compatible with the FTA-recommended Transit Economic Requirements Model (TERM).
The TAICA project anticipates completing its initial inventory and condition assessment by October 2016, with preliminary data available prior to that date. This resource will be an important input to the updated CNI.
Meanwhile, On April 28, 2016, the General Manager approved the Capital Needs Inventory Policy/Instruction (P/I 4.12/2) that defines the process and framework for capital investment decision making. The purpose of this policy is to provide “the framework for evaluating and prioritizing Metro’s capital investment needs, with the ultimate goal of informing the development of a capital program that is beneficial and cost-effective and has the greatest strategic impact.”
The policy also identifies four key elements that will help drive the prioritization of asset reinvestment decisions, including
- Asset criticality;
- Achievement of strategic objectives;
- Asset condition; and
- Asset risk
The Office of Planning is currently working with experts from the industry to develop a draft set of asset prioritization criteria and indices that are aligned with these key elements. We aim to have a draft CNI document delivered to the Board in December of 2016 and conduct further scenario testing on this product in early 2017.